Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 14:35 UK

Pension income in UK still modest

Elderly ladies
Pension income ranges from less than 2,000 to more than 16,000

State and private pensions still provide most pensioners with only "modest" incomes, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Its latest update on pension trends shows that, in 2005-06, 62% of pensioner couples had less 10,000 in pension income.

Half of single pensioners had income from pensions of less than 6,000.

But earlier research has shown that in the decade to 2005-06, pensioners still became substantially better off.

Their incomes, from all sources, outstripped inflation by a third in the course of those 10 years, the ONS reported last December.

"We've lifted more than a million pensioners out of poverty by targeting help to those who need it most," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

"Pension Credit guarantees an income of 124 a week compared with 69 a week in 1997," she said.

Less than 1,000

The latest statistics show that the income of most pensioners from the state, in the form of pensions and benefits, was far greater than from any occupational or personal pensions they received.

62% of pensioner couples and at least 50% of single pensioners are living well below the official poverty line
Joe Harris, National Pensioners Convention

While the average pensioner couple had state pension and benefits worth 7,296, their average income from private pension sources was just 2,115.

While there were 6.2 million pensioner households in total receiving state benefits of one sort or another, including their state pension, there were fewer receiving any private pensions - just 4 million.

And within those households gaining some income from occupational or personal pensions, many got less than 1,000.

Among single female pensioners, 61% received less than that, along with 55% of single men and 40% of pensioner couples.

By contrast, only 6% of pensioner couples got more than 6,000 from their private pensions.

Joe Harris, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said the situation was scandalous.

"A hundred years after the first ever state pension and 62% of pensioner couples and at least 50% of single pensioners are living well below the official poverty line," he said.

The government plans to introduce an additional state pension system, called personal accounts, which should add to the pension savings of nine million people from 2012.

It wil also reintroduce by 2015 a link between the basic state pension and the rise in average earnings.

"No idea"

Other figures published by the ONS show that active membership of private pension schemes has continued to decline among men, but fell at a much slower rate among women.

From 1999-2000 to 2005-06, the proportion of working age men who were members of any scheme fell from 49% to 43% at just 7.6 million.

Although 6.2 million women were members, they represented 37% of working age women, down from 38% six years earlier.

For both men and women, the age group most likely to be paying into a private pension scheme were those aged in their late 30s to their early 50s.

The least likely to be contributing were those in their early 20s.

Meanwhile, nearly half of those yet to retire admitted they had no idea at all what their income in retirement might be, with a further 19% claiming to have only a vague idea.

By the time they came nearer to retirement, the fact that they would not have as much as they might like to live on was beginning to dawn.

Of the 55 to 65 age group, 44% said they definitely would not have enough to retire on comfortably.

Despite this, in 2006 33% of working age men and 53% of working age women were still expecting to retire before they reached the age of 65.


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